...Left largely to its own devices, the Chrysler group within the past year has embarked on a sweeping redesign of nearly every existing vehicle line by 2005, beginning with the Grand Cherokee last fall and the Neon earlier this year, and progressing into early 2000 with replacements for the Sebring/Avenger coupes and the Cirrus/Stratus sedans. But they’re also stuffing the pipeline with new products, many of which began life as concepts on the international show circuit.
The first evidence is the new PT Cruiser, which is being built on an extensively modified version of the Neon platform. The PT Cruiser (the initials came from the vehicle’s original development code name) had its genesis in two earlier Chrysler concept vehicles and will reach showrooms in the spring, less than three years after the original design sketches were approved.
A second Neon derivative, tentatively called Dodge Sequoia, is slated to arrive in 2002-03, on an all-wheel-drive version of the PT Cruiser’s chassis.
This so-called platform-stretching exercise is taking place throughout the company. Take the full-size Dodge Ram pickup. When the big truck is overhauled for model year 2002, Chrysler may add a niche variant with a unique cab and a performance powertrain, based loosely on the recent Dodge Power Wagon show truck.
A second proposal calls for Jeep to get a full-size Suburban killer in 2002-03, derived from the Commander concept and built on the revised Ram 4x4 chassis. There may also be a Dodge variant to duke it out with Ford’s colossal Excursion.